New WIC sites in Northampton, Amherst

Staff Writer
Friday, April 01, 2016

NORTHAMPTON — A program that serves expectant mothers and their children until they are 5 years old is opening new locations in Northampton and Amherst.

The Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, in Northampton has relocated to the Silk Mill, 15 Straw Ave., Suite 112, in Florence, from the Head Start office at 56 Vernon St. And on May 4, WIC will move its Amherst site from 150 Fearing St. to the North Amherst School, 1200 North Pleasant St.

Karin Anderson, WIC community coordinator for the Franklin, Hampshire and Quabbin Area, said in a telephone interview the new locations for the program. administered by lead agency Community Action, are on bus lines and near other services for mothers and young children.

“We’re trying to make it easier for participants to get to WIC,” Anderson said. “A lot of it is to make WIC more visible and present in the community.”

She observes that the new Northampton site is close to the Northampton Area Pediatrics, 193 Locust St., while the new Amherst location is in the same building as the Amherst Family Center. WIC is a nutrition program, funded by the federal and state governments, that provides checks to mothers so they can buy certain food that meets nutrition guidelines at local grocery stores. Dieticians work with the clients to ensure the children are eating well and periodic screenings are offered.

Anderson said the goal is to increase participation this year, pointing to a 2015 needs assessment that shows that WIC served 259 of 326 eligible women in Amherst, 0r 79 percent, but just 196 of 492 eligible women in Northampton, or 40 percent.

“Many people in Amherst and Northampton are not aware of our services or they believe they do not financially qualify for the program,” Anderson said.

But those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits or MassHealth automatically qualify, Anderson said.

Anderson said WIC has peer counselors who work closely with breast-feeding mothers, giving them information and getting them access to pumps and support groups. Mothers who opt to use formula for their infants also receive assistance.

Social workers also are at the sites, supplying resources related to housing, insurance and health benefits.

In addition to the Northampton and Amherst locations, WIC has sites in Greenfield and Orange.

Anderson said WIC will have a table and information for people who attend the Meltdown 2016 festival at Smith Vocational High School from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.